While not yet in production early testing is very promising, and could lead to rapid development of commercial test kits.
Early detection would be a major step forward for those many subject to infection as well as the people caring for them in so many different countries and capacities.
The portable analyser, currently in prototype stages, is based on the Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) molecular biology technique.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplifies a target biological material, such as the Ebola virus, contained in a tiny sample of blood so it can be detected. It is a common technique for many uses both medical and scientific where DNA is used a s a conformation technique. The key procedure in PCR is the accurately controlled cycle of repetitive heating and cooling of the biological material that is subsequently evaluated against biological markers loaded on the microchip.
The next step will be to optimise the point-of-care Ebola-detection solution for large-scale deployment, including innovations to minimise the threat of infection when handling the biological sample.
ST Microelectronics and its partners will also aim to lower the costs of the device.
The prototype analyzer kit has been successfully tested for compliance with applicable international standards by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Spallanzani, one of the two Italian institutions designated by the Italian Ministry of Health as a reference center for care and treatment of Ebola.
The kit detects the presence of the Ebola virus with extreme accuracy in just a few microliters of human-blood samples and the accuracy of the result has been confirmed with a blood sample diluted up to a million times. The high sensitivity of the test allows the detection of the virus at a very early stage, which can significantly help limit the spread of the deadly disease.
An extractor extracts the virus RNA from a loaded blood sample. A stamp-sized silicon microchip from STMicroelectronics then acts as a miniaturised reactor and reproduces, in micrometer scale, the entire process of amplification and screening of the extracted genetic material on which the extracted RNA is loaded, to be then reverse-transcribed into DNA and amplified according to the RT-PCR methodology.
Silicon’s low thermal capacity and the minute volumes of tested samples significantly reduce reaction times and allow the fast temperature cycling that enables quick amplification of complex biological materials without compromising accuracy and reliability.
Clonit reagents then perform a Quantitative Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (viral load) in compliance with all standards and controls required by the international quality-control regulations.
In the final step, a STMicroelectronics-developed portable optical reader detects the presence of viral DNA in the sample, and sends the data to a PC which then processes and presents the information in graphical form.
The device is not just accurate, but small enough and fast enough to be of extreme application in urgent situations and for use in the field.
[ reported originally on December 16 2014 - but important enough to be reproduced here.]